Stick of Truth review
Matt Stone and Trey Parker must be the most ingenious men in entertainment today. With their raucous tongue-and-cheek challenging of all things considered taboo to societal censure, I am more amazed at the amount of stuff they get away with than the amount of content they are able to produce. Yet produce they have. With seventeen seasons of a hit comedy show under their belt, they have some how managed to do the impossible: convince a major video game studio to produce a decent interactive extension to their irreverent South Park universe.
What is more incredible is how the game managed to come out. Surviving the bankruptcy of the initial publisher THQ and picked up by Ubisoft, this writer has to wonder if some kind of scatological Christmas magic was spread across the development cycle. This is not even considering the level of digital murder the game has managed to get away with; Nazi imagery marches across the screen in unashamed regalia, unborn fetuses are smashed as road obstructions, a gay man-whore devours your enemies with an eager, insatiable butt-hole as a summon. It’s an absolute wonder in our still-prudent media age that this project was able to see the light of day, let alone be seen as anything more than a crass bitch-slap across the face of conventional media decency.
Yet, Stick of Truth shines, not as just a natural addition to the already prolific South Park universe, or as a brilliant raspberry to censorship, but as one of the best modern RPG’s of this console generation. The Stick of Truth is a game whose mechanics are as surprisingly well-crafted as the subject matter is shocking; in between all the toilet humor and shock-jock material, there is a solid piece of video game entertainment. The battle system is a simplistic turn based affair, yet in the simplicity, there are shades of complexity. Playing between all the strengths of your enemies, the player will find themselves constantly weighing the pros and cons of their allies, balancing Butters’ Professor Chaos powers with the…um….feminine wiles of Princess Kenny. Variety is the spice of life in this digital imagining of the bizarre Colorado town, and will have the player flitting here and there, taking a more…proactive stance on the homeless situation, combating the minions of Taco Bell, and learning healthy bowel maintenance, as true to the source material as can be without being transported into the TV show themselves.
The surprisingly deep player customization and equipment system will have the player making purposeful decisions, determining whether or not to gallivant into the next boss fight wearing underpants or a condom hat, and whether or not to attach that dead bird to their necromancer Hot Topic gloves for the poison damage bonus. The amount of cosmetic add-ons to your fourth grader avatar is quite unexpected and a welcome addition for this micro-managing customization freak. I have finally fulfilled my dream of running about as a emo primary school ginger with a genteel mustache, complete with a screaming teal gnome hat. Thank you, Stick of Truth, for making me realize aspirations I didn’t know I had.
Every good RPG shines on its characterization and story, so how does this bastard brain child stack up? The answer should not come as a surprise. Without giving too much away, the game feels very much like an episode of the show, encapsulating the irreverant madness and iconoclastic leanings sprinkled into a multi-hour long foray into the “quiet” town. The brilliant blending of the kids’ sword-and-sorcery affair and the tie-ins with the modern mentality of the grown ups makes a perfect blend of absurdist acid-washed nightmare, as the bizarre spins on reality that come from left field, such as alien abductions, are accepted with no more than a shrug and a business-as-usual attitude, iconic of the series’ central humor. Twitter is tied into the child imagination as a messenger raven, farting is seen and utilized as a type of powerful magic utterance (I am not ashamed to state that I laughed when my first “spell”, a powerful fart, was referred to as “Dragonshout,” a nod to Skyrim), and random house-hold objects are used as power-ups and weapons, to name a few examples of amusing childish interpretings in the meta-world of play. Every fan favorite character and obscure South Park meme is mentioned in some way or form, in both not-so-subtle nods and collectibles sure to titillate aficianados of the series. The player is constantly interacting with first and third-bit characters, from buying weapon upgrades from the diabetic wonder-kid Scott Malkinson, to twarting Mr. Mackey’s plans to incarcerate members of the group with detention, the player will always feel themselves immersed in the insane wonder-land of the Colorado town, interacting with the nut-case residents in a consistent and hilarious fashion to progress the ludicrous plot lines.
If you enjoy a quality, well-thought out role-playing game that doesn’t think of itself in a serious light, The Stick of Truth is an easy no-brainer for your collection, even if you aren’t a normal fan of Stone and Parker’s madcap mountain town. Even by its own merits, The Stick of Truth is a game as good as it is goofy.